Section 1 - Introduction
Section 2 - The Big Bang Theory
Section 3 - References/Acknowledgments
Now, re-enter the Big Bang hypothesis. While it was credited to Lemaître in his obituary, the eventual widespread acceptance of this hypothesis was due mainly to its leading constituent, Gamow. Even though it probably is not known widely today, the Big Bang—in its original “standard” form—actually came before the advent of the Steady State Theory and, ironically, was given its name (intended to be derogatory) by Hoyle as a result of a snide comment he made on a radio show for which he served as host (Fox, 2002, p. 65). In this section, we will discuss only the “standard” form of the Big Bang, leaving the discussion of the Big Bang’s most recent variations for later.
In the beginning was the ylem...or so the theorists say. The “ylem”—an entirely hypothetical construct—was a primordial substance 1014 times the density of water, yet smaller in volume than a single proton. As one writer expressed it:
Astonishingly, scientists now calculate that everything in this vast universe grew out of a region many billions of times smaller than a single proton, one of the atom’s basic particles (Gore, 1983, 163:705).
The ylem (a.k.a. the “cosmic egg”) was a “mind-bogglingly dense atom containing the entire Universe” (Fox, p. 69). [Where, exactly, the cosmic egg is supposed to have come from, no one quite knows; so far, no cosmic chicken has yet been sighted.] At some point in time, according to Big Bang theorists, the ylem reached its minimum contraction (at a temperature of 1032 Celsius—a 1 followed by 32 zeros!), and suddenly and violently expanded. Within an hour of this event, nucleosynthesis began to occur. That is to say, the light atoms we know today (e.g., hydrogen, helium, and lithium) had been manufactured in the intense heat. As the Universe expanded and cooled, the atoms started “clumping” together, and within a few hundred million years, the coalescing “clumps” began to form stars and galaxies (see Figure 2 below). The heavier elements are assumed to have formed later via nuclear fusion within the cores of stars.
Click image for larger picture.
|Figure 2—Graphic representation of the alleged evolutionary origin of the Universe, from the Big Bang to the present, including the initial expansion phase, the production of matter, and galaxy formation. Courtesy of Center for European Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland.
While the Steady State Theory had been widely accepted for more than a decade after its introduction, 1948 also was a good year for the competing Big Bang Theory. The first boost came from George Gamow and Ralph Alpher (currently, distinguished professor of physics, Union College, Schenectady, New York). They applied quantum physics to see how the Big Bang could make hydrogen and helium (plus minute amounts of lithium)—the elements thought to form 99% of the visible Universe—in a process called nucleosynthesis (see Gribbin, 1998, pp. 129-134). However, their theory was unable to account for elements heavier than helium; these would have to be made elsewhere. Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge, Willy Fowler, and Fred Hoyle obliged—by suggesting that these other elements were manufactured in stars. To cap it all off, Fowler, Hoyle, and Robert Wagoner showed that the proportions of certain lighter-weight elements produced during the Big Bang matched almost exactly the proportions thought to exist in the solar system. This result, published in 1967, convinced many astronomers that the Big Bang was the correct description of the Universe’s origin.
A decade later, the Big Bang was in full bloom. Robert Jastrow of NASA parroted the standard Big Bang refrain when he commented that, in the beginning, “all matter in the Universe was compressed into an infinitely dense and hot mass” that exploded. Then, over the many eons that followed, “the primordial cloud of the Universe expands and cools, stars are born and die, the sun and earth are formed, and life arises on the earth” (1977, pp. 2-3). With these statements, he was describing, of course, the essence of the Big Bang Theory, a concept that reigns supreme—in one form or another—as the current evolutionary explanation of the origin of the Universe. Berlinski assessed the theory’s popularity as follows:
As far as most physicists are concerned, the Big Bang is now a part of the structure of serene indubitability created by modern physics, an event undeniable as the volcanic explosion at Krakatoa. From time to time, it is true, the astrophysical journals report the failure of observation to confirm the grand design. It hardly matters. The physicists have not only persuaded themselves of the merits of Big Bang cosmology, they have persuaded everyone else as well (1998, p. 29).
Well, not quite everybody. It is true, of course, that cosmologists cling tightly to what they view as such a seemingly cohesive theory as the Big Bang. Princeton physicist Paul Steinhardt admitted:
An expanding universe, the microwave background radiation [discussed later—BT/BH/BM] and nucleosynthesis—these are the three key elements of the Big Bang model that seem to be very well verified observationally. They set a standard for any competing model (as quoted in Peterson, 1991, 139:232).
Truth be told, however, none of these concepts is without its own set of problems, and as a result, many scientists have acknowledged a number of critical flaws in the scenario you have just read. Hoyle stated the matter quite succinctly when he wrote:
As a result of all this, the main efforts of investigators have been in papering over holes in the big bang theory, to build up an idea that has become ever more complex and cumbersome. ...I have little hesitation in saying that a sickly pall now hangs over the big bang theory. When a pattern of facts becomes set against a theory, experience shows that the theory rarely recovers (1984, 92::84, emp. added).
It is the view of many that the standard Big Bang not only has not yet recovered, but, in fact, never will recover. While that form of the Big Bang Theory has been in vogue throughout almost the whole of the scientific community, it nevertheless has fallen on hard times of late. [Revisions and variations of the Big Bang that still remain popular today will be discussed later.] As long ago as 1981, prominent astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar remarked:
These arguments should indicate to the uncommitted that the big-bang picture is not as soundly established, either theoretically or observationally, as it is usually claimed to be—astrophysicists of today who hold the view that “the ultimate cosmological problem” has been more or less solved may well be in for a few surprises before this century runs out (91:21).
Only two years later, evolutionist Don Page wrote: “There is no mechanism known as yet that would allow the Universe to begin in an arbitrary state and then evolve to its present highly ordered state” (1983, 304:40). Three years after that, renowned cosmologist John Gribbin reiterated the point when he wrote of the Big Bang Theory that “many cosmologists now feel that the shortcomings of the standard theory outweigh its usefulness...” (1986, 110:30). A decade-and-a-half later, one scientist, writing under the title of “The Bursting of the Big Bang,” admitted that “while few people have seen the obituary...the reality is that the immensely popular Big Bang Theory is dead.... The Big Bang cannot explain the nature of the universe as we know it” (Lindsay, 2001, emp. in orig.). Berlinski, in “Was There a Big Bang?,” wrote: “If the evidence in favor of Big Bang cosmology is more suspect than generally imagined, its defects are far stronger than generally credited” (1998, p. 37). Oh, how true. As it turns out, Narlikar, Page, Gribbin, and Lindsay were all correct. Scientists who advocated the Big Bang were in for “a few surprises.” The standard Big Bang Theory has “outweighed its usefulness.” And, yes, “the immensely popular Big Bang Theory is dead.” Keep reading to find out why.
SCIENTIFIC REASONS WHY THE BIG BANG THEORY
CANNOT BE CORRECT
When one steps away from all the Big Bang propaganda, and carefully examines the foundation on which the concept itself rests, there is legitimate reason for concern. The theory, it appears, is haphazardly nestled on, and teeters on the brink of, some incredible assumptions—“incredible” in that each unstable assumption is built on top of another equally volatile supposition. It seems that, as this stack mounts, each subsequent assumption casts a shadow that hides from public view the visible uncertainties of the preceding one. Like an onion, as each layer is stripped back, it leaves only another lachrymose layer to be viewed. The time has come to peel back several of those layers, and expose what lies beneath. The Big Bang, as it turns out, is scientifically flawed.
An article (“The Self-Reproducing Inflationary Universe”) by famed cosmologist Andrei Linde in the November 1994 issue of Scientific American revealed that the standard Big Bang Theory has been “scientifically brain dead” for quite some time. Linde (who, by the way, is the developer of two closely related variations of the Big Bang, known as the chaotic and the eternal inflationary models) is a professor of physics at Stanford University. He listed half a dozen extremely serious problems with the theory—problems that have been acknowledged for years (yet sadly, not always in a widely publicized fashion). Linde began his obituary for the Big Bang by asking the following question:
What Was There Before the Bang?
Scientists have been extremely successful, thus far, at diverting attention away from the obvious question: Where did the original material for the Big Bang come from? That is to say, what came before the Big Bang? John Gribbin voiced the opinion of many when he wrote: “The biggest problem with the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe is philosophical—perhaps even theological—what was there before the bang?” (1976, 259:15-16, emp. added). David Berlinski, writing in Commentary magazine, concluded:
Such is the standard version of hot Big Bang cosmology—“hot” in contrast to scenarios in which the universe is cold, and “Big Bang” in contrast to various steady-state cosmologies in which nothing ever begins and nothing ever quite ends. It may seem that this archeological scenario leaves unanswered the question of how the show started and merely describes the consequences of some Great Cause that it cannot specify and does not comprehend (1998, p. 30, emp. added).
It’s not just that “it may seem” that the Big Bang Theory “leaves unanswered the question of how the show started.” It’s that it does leave such questions unanswered! Linde admitted that there is a chicken-and-egg problem involved here. In his Scientific American article, he noted:
The first, and main, problem is the very existence of the big bang. One may wonder, What came before? If space-time did not exist then, how could everything appear from nothing? What arose first: the universe or the laws governing it? Explaining this initial singularity—where and when it all began—still remains the most intractable problem of modern cosmology (1994, 271:48, emp. added).
Yes, “one may wonder.” But that is not all about which one may wonder, as Linde pointed out later when he asked, “If there was no law, how did the Universe appear?” (as quoted in Overbye, 2001). British physicist Stephen Hawking asked:
What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.... Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations (1988, p. 174, emp. added).
In a chapter titled “Science and the Unknowable” in one of his books, humanist Martin Gardner followed Hawking’s and Linde’s lead:
Imagine that physicists finally discover all the basic waves and their particles, and all the basic laws, and unite everything in one equation. We can then ask, “Why that equation?” It is fashionable now to conjecture that the big bang was caused by a random quantum fluctuation in a vacuum devoid of space and time. But of course such a vacuum is a far cry from nothing. There had to be quantum laws to fluctuate. And why are there quantum laws?...There is no escape from the superultimate questions: Why is there something rather than nothing, and why is the something structured the way it is? (2000, p. 303, emp. added).
British cosmologist John Barrow addressed the issue in a similar fashion when he wrote:
At first, the absence of a beginning appears to be an advantage to the scientific approach. There are no awkward starting conditions to deduce or explain. But this is an illusion. We still have to explain why the Universe took on particular properties—its rate expansion, density, and so forth—at an infinite time in the past (2000, p. 296, emp. added).
Gardner and Barrow are correct. And science, as impressive as it is, cannot provide the solutions to such problems.
Entire Universes from Black Holes?
The eminent cosmologist Hannes Alfven has voiced his opinion that the ylem never could have attained the incredible density postulated by the Big Bang Theory (see Mulfinger, 1967, 4:63). But what if it had? Astronomer Paul Steidl offered yet another puzzle.
If the universe is such and such a size now, they argue, then it must have been smaller in the past, since it is observed to be expanding. If we follow this far enough backward in time, the universe must have been very small, as small as we wish to make it by going back far enough. This leads to all sorts of problems which would not even come up if scientists were to realize that time can be pushed back only so far; they do not have an infinite amount of time to play with.... To bring all the matter in the universe back to the same point requires 10 to 20 billion years. Astronomers postulate that at that time all the matter in the universe was at that one spot, and some explosion of unimaginable force blew it apart at near light-speeds. What was that matter like, and how did it get there in the first place? And how did it come to be distributed as it is now? These are the basic questions that cosmological models try to answer, but the solutions continue to be elusive. With the entire universe the size of a pinpoint,* normal physical laws as we know them must have been drastically different. There is no way scientists can determine what conditions would have been like under these circumstances. One could not even tell matter from energy. Yet astronomers continue to make confident assertions about just what went on during the first billionth of a second! (1979, p. 195).
Interestingly, at the place in Steidl’s quote where you see the asterisk (“...with the universe the size of a pinpoint*...”), there was a corresponding asterisk at the bottom of the page, indicating a footnote that included this statement: “Question: Why did the universe not become a black hole?” (emp. added). Why not indeed? Or, as Gerardus Bouw wrote in an article titled “Cosmic Space and Time”: “In order to save the Big Bang cosmology, are we to believe that the...physics of black holes does not work for the universe?” (1982, 19:31). If all the matter and energy in the Universe were packed into a point “many billions of times smaller than a single proton,” why would that not constitute a black hole? [NOTE: The reader who is interested in investigating further the concept of black holes (including whether or not they actually exist) may wish to read: (a) Hazel Muir’s article, “Death Star,” in the January 19, 2002 issue of New Scientist; and (b) “New Theories Dispute the Existence of Black Holes,” (2002).]
Interestingly, some scientists actually have now begun to suggest that the Universe did evolve from a black hole. Lee Smolin, a professor of physics at Pennsylvania State University, suggested exactly that in his book, The Life of the Cosmos: A New View of Cosmology, Particle Physics, and the Meaning of Quantum Physics (1995). In a chapter titled “The Theory of the Whole Universe” that he authored for John Brockman’s book, The Third Culture, Dr. Smolin discussed his view of what he refers to as “cosmological natural selection.”
It seemed to me that the only principle powerful enough to explain the high degree of organization of our universe—compared to a universe with the particles and forces chosen randomly—was natural selection itself. The question then became: Could there be any mechanism by which natural selection could work on the scale of the whole universe?
Once I asked the question, the answer appeared very quickly: the properties of the particles and the forces are selected to maximize the number of black holes the universe produces. ...[A] new region of the universe begins to expand as if from a big bang, there inside the black hole.... I had a mechanism by which natural selection would act to produce universes with whatever choice of parameters would lead to the most production of black holes, since a black hole is the means by which a universe reproduces—that is, spawns another (1995, p. 293, emp. added).
Immediately following Smolin’s chapter in The Third Culture, cosmologist Sir Martin Rees (Britain’s Astronomer Royal) offered the following invited response:
Smolin speculates—as others, like Alan Guth, have also done—that inside a black hole it’s possible for a small region to, as it were, sprout into a new universe. We don’t see it, but it inflates into some new dimension.... What that would mean is that universes which can therefore produce lots of black holes, would have more progeny, because each black hole can then lead a new universe; whereas a universe that didn’t allow stars and black holes to form would have no progeny. Therefore Smolin claims that the ensemble of universes may evolve not randomly but by some Darwinian selection, in favor of the potentially complex universes.
My first response is that we have no idea about the physics at these extreme densities, so we have no idea whether the physics of the daughter universe would resemble that of the parent universe. But one nice thing about Smolin’s idea, which I don’t think he realized himself in his first paper, is that it’s in principle testable....
The bad news is that I don’t see any reason to believe that our universe has the property that it forms more black holes than any other slightly different universe. There are ways of changing the laws of physics to get more black holes, so in my view there are arguments against Smolin’s hypothesis. It’s just everyday physics, or fairly everyday physics, that determines how stars evolve and whether black holes form and I can tell Smolin that our universe doesn’t have the properties that maximize the chance of black holes. I could imagine a slightly different universe that would be even better at forming black holes. If Smolin is right, then why shouldn’t our universe be like that? (as quoted in Smolin, 1995, pp. 298,299, emp. in orig.).
The essence of Sir Martin’s question—“If Smolin is right, why shouldn’t our universe be like that?”—applies to more than just Dr. Smolin’s particular theory. It applies across the board to any number of theories: “If ____ is right, why shouldn’t our universe be like ____?” Which is exactly one of the points we are trying to get across. The simple fact is, in many of these “off the wall” theories, the Universe is not “like that.” In commenting on Smolin’s ideas, Berlinski wrote:
There is, needless to say, no evidence whatsoever in favor of this preposterous theory. The universes that are bubbling up are unobservable. So, too, are the universes that have been bubbled up and those that will bubble up in the future. Smolin’s theories cannot be confirmed by experience. Or by anything else. What law of nature could reveal that the laws of nature are contingent?
Contemporary cosmologists feel free to say anything that pops into their heads. Unhappy examples are everywhere: absurd schemes to model time on the basis of the complex numbers, as in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time; bizarre and ugly contraptions for cosmic inflation; universes multiplying beyond the reach of observation; white holes, black holes, worm holes, and naked singularities; theories of every stripe and variety, all of them uncorrected by any criticism beyond the trivial. The physicists carry on endlessly because they can (1998, p. 38, emp. added).
“Carrying on endlessly,” unfortunately, has not helped matters. Once again, keep reading.
Redshift and Expansion Problems
As we mentioned earlier, the twin ideas of the (a) accuracy of redshift measurements and (b) an expanding Universe form a critically important part of the foundation of modern Big Bang cosmology. As late as 1979, scientists were shocked to learn that two of the methods that had been used to derive many of their measurements regarding ages and distances within the Universe—the Hubble constant (see next paragraph) and redshift measurements (to be discussed shortly)—were in error.
The value of the Hubble constant (H0 —the constant of proportion between relative velocity and distance that is used to calculate the expansion rate of the Universe) is expressed in kilometers per second per megaparsec [one parsec equals just a little over 3 light-years (3.2616 to be exact); a megaparsec (Mpc) is one million parsecs]. Initially, the Hubble constant was set by Hubble himself at around 500 km/sec/Mpc (Hubble, 1929). Since then, it has been revised repeatedly. In fact, of late, astronomical theory has run headlong into a series of nasty problems regarding the continued recalibration of the so-called Hubble constant. Observe the following in table form (adapted from DeYoung, 1995).
In an article he wrote on “The Hubble Law,” physicist Don DeYoung noted:
The Hubble constant cannot be measured exactly, like the speed of light or the mass of an electron. Aside from questions about its possible variation in the past, there is simply no consensus on its value today....
Today there are two popular competing values for the Hubble constant. A smaller value of about H = 50 is promoted by Allan Sandage, Gustav Tammann and colleagues. This constant results in a universe age of about 19.3 billion years. A larger value, H = 100, is preferred by many other astronomers: Gerard de Vaucouleurs, Richard Fisher, Roberta Humphreys, Wendy Freedman, Barry Madore, Brent Tully and others. The H = 100 value gives a universe age half that of Sandage, “just” 9 billion years or less, depending on the gravity factor used (1995, 9:9, emp. added).
DeYoung was correct when he suggested in regard to the Hubble constant that “there is simply no consensus on its value today.” Gribbin, in his book, In Search of the Big Bang, remarked concerning the disagreement between the two camps specifically mentioned by DeYoung (Sandage, et al., and Vaucouleurs, et al.): “Neither seems willing to budge” (1998, p. 188). Little wonder. As Gribbin also observed: “Hubble’s constant is the key number in all of cosmology. Armed with an accurate value of H and redshift measurements, it would be possible to calculate the distance to any galaxy” (pp. 187-188, emp. added).
But “an accurate value of H” has thus far eluded astronomers, cosmologists, and physicists. Based on measurements of 20 Cepheid variable stars from the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, the Hubble constant has been measured at 80 km/sec/Mpc (see Freedman, et al., 1994; Jacoby, 1994). [Assuming that the Big Bang theory for the origin of the Universe is correct, that would correspond to an age of the Universe of about 8 billion years.] Yet, as DeYoung pointed out, another group of astronomers, led by Allan Sandage, has claimed that the Hubble constant should be set at about 50 km/sec/Mpc (see Cowen, 1994), which (depending on the application of various correction factors) would make the Universe somewhere in the range of 13-20 billion years old (Travis, 1994).
Still another group of astronomers has argued that astronomical theories would require a Hubble constant of 30 km/sec/Mpc (Bartlett, et al., 1995). As of this writing, according to data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe [WMAP] (as reported in an article, “Turning a Corner on the New Cosmology,” in the May 2003 issue of Sky and Telescope), the latest value for the Hubble constant has been set at 71 +/- 4 km/sec/Mpc, yielding an age for the Universe of 13.7 billion years (see MacRobert, 105:16-17). Well-known astronomer Halton Arp (discussed below) has referred to what he calls the continuing “soap opera of conflicting claims about the value of the Hubble constant” (1999, p. 234), and commented that numerous “corrections” frequently are required to make the available data “fit” (p. 153).
Christopher DePree and Alan Axelrod admitted: “Actually the precise value of H0 is the subject of dispute” (2001, p. 328). That is a mild understatement, since the current value of the Hubble constant varies between 50 and 75 km/sec/Mpc (see Cowen, 1994; Illingworth and Clark, 2000, p. 198). [It is important to understand that the value of the Hubble “constant” is not a trivial matter. As DePree and Axelrod went on to note: “A different Hubble constant gives the universe a different age” (p. 328). This, of course, is clearly evident from the data in the Table 1 below.]
(billions of years)
||1973 (p. 61)
||1992 (p. 366)
||1994 (p. 46)
||1994 (p. 556)
||1994 (p. 95)
||1994 (p. 164)
||2003 (pp. 16-17)
Table 1—Hubble constant values, 1929-2003. *The original value of the Hubble constant was not well defined because of scatter in the data (see Gribbin, 1998, p. 79, figure 4.1A). Estimates range from 320 to 600 km/sec/Mpc, but perhaps the most popular viewsets Hubble’s initial estimate at around 500 km/sec/Mpc.
In the minds of some, one of the most significant problems facing Big Bang cosmology today has to do with the concept of redshift. Perhaps the easiest way to understand redshift is to imagine the sound coming from a siren on a fire engine. Once that fire engine passes, the pitch drops. The siren does not actually change pitch; rather, the sound waves of an approaching fire engine are made shorter by the approach of the sound source, where the waves of the departing fire engine are made longer by the receding of the sound source (see Figure 1). Light (or electromagnetic radiation) from stars or galaxies behaves in exactly the same manner. As we mentioned earlier, an approaching source of light or radiation emits shorter waves (relative to an observer). A receding source emits longer waves (again, relative to the observer). Thus, the radiation or light of a source moving toward an observer will be “shifted” toward the blue end of the wavelength scale. The radiation or light of a source moving away from the observer “shifts” toward the red end of the light spectrum. The amount of shift is a function of the relative speed. A body approaching or receding at a high speed will show a greater shift than one approaching or receding at a low speed.
Illingworth and Clark observed in regard to the Hubble constant: “The velocity can be measured accurately from the redshift in the galaxy’s spectrum” (2000, p. 198). But what if the redshift measurements themselves are incorrect? That, by definition, would affect the Hubble constant, which in turn would alter the size and age estimates of the Universe, which in turn would impact cosmic evolution, etc.
Edwin Powell Hubble (image courtesy of California Institute of Technology)
The redshift controversy has been elucidated most effectively by American astrophysicist Halton Arp, currently at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich, Germany. Arp—who has been called “the world’s most controversial astronomer” (Kaufmann, 1982)—has suggested that redshifts are not necessarily attributable to the Doppler effect (see Amato, 1986; Bird, 1987, pp. 5,8). Dr. Arp is difficult to dismiss; he worked with Edwin Hubble himself, and formerly was at the Mt. Palomar Observatory. He has studied the relationship between quasars (see definition below) and what he refers to as “irregular” galaxies, and, on the basis of his observations, has opposed the standard belief in the correlating relationship between an object’s redshift and its velocity. In fact, Arp has found what he calls “enigmatic and disturbing cases,” where two apparently connected objects that seem to be the same distance away, actually have significantly different redshift values (see Sagan, 1980, p. 255; Arp, 1987; Cowen, 1990; Arp, 1999).
Click image for the full document.
For example, by taking photographs through the big telescopes, Arp discovered that many pairs of quasars that have extremely high redshift values (and therefore are thought to be receding from us very rapidly—which means that they must be located at a great distance from us) are associated physically with galaxies that have low redshifts, and thus are thought to be relatively close. Dr. Arp has produced extremely impressive photographs of many pairs of high-redshift quasars that are located symmetrically on either side of what he proposes are their parent, low-redshift galaxies [See “Arp’s Anomalies.”]. These pairings, he suggests, occur much more frequently than the probabilities of random placement should allow. Mainstream astrophysicists have tried to explain away Arp’s observations of connected galaxies and quasars as being “illusions” or “coincidences of apparent location.” But, the large number of physically associated quasars and low-redshift galaxies that he has photographed and cataloged defies such an explanation. It simply happens too often. As Dr. Arp himself lamented: “One point at which our magicians attempt their sleight-of-hand is when they slide quickly from the Hubble, redshift-distance relation to redshift velocity of expansion” (as quoted in Martin, 1999, p. 217, emp. added). In his volume, Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science, Arp wrote:
But if the cause of these redshifts is misunderstood, then distances can be wrong by factors of 10 to 100, and luminosities and masses will be wrong by factors up to 10,000. We would have a totally erroneous picture of extragalactic space, and be faced with one of the most embarrassing boondoggles in our intellectual history (1999, p. 1, emp. added).
All of this means, of course, that the redshift may be virtually useless for calculating the recession speed of distant galaxies, and would completely destroy one of the main pillars of the expanding-Universe idea. Meteorologist Michael Oard noted:
What if the redshift of starlight is unrelated to the Doppler effect, i.e., the principle that relative motion changes the observed frequency of the light emitted from a light source? Many of the deductions of mainstream cosmology would fold catastrophically (2000, 14:39).
Astronomer William Kaufmann concluded in an article he wrote about Arp titled “The Most Feared Astronomer on Earth”:
If Arp is correct [about redshifts not being distance indicators—BT/BH/BM], if his observations are confirmed, he will have single-handedly shaken all modern astronomy to its very foundations. If he is right, one of the pillars of modern astronomy and cosmology will come crashing down in a turmoil unparalleled since Copernicus dared to suggest that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of the solar system (1981, 89:78, emp. added).
Or, as Fox lamented:
Redshifts are not, in and of themselves, a sign of a star’s age or distance, and yet redshifts have become intrinsically entwined with how we determine not just the speed of any given object, but also how old and how far away it is. If the interpretation of redshift is wrong, then all the proof that the universe is expanding will disappear. It would undermine everything that’s been mapped out about the heavens. Not only would the big bang theory come crashing down, but scientists wouldn’t be able to determine how the nearest galaxy is moving, much less how the whole universe behaves (2002, p. 129, emp. added).
What is going on here? The history of this fascinating story actually harks back to the 1940s. But Arp’s work has updated it considerably. Berlinski has told the tale well.
At the end of World War II, astronomers discovered places in the sky where charged particles moving in a magnetic field sent out strong signals in the radio portion of the spectrum. Twenty years later, Alan Sandage and Thomas Mathews identified the source of such signals with optically discernible points in space. These are the quasars—quasi stellar radio sources.
Quasars have played a singular role in astrophysics. In the mid-1960’s, Maarten Schmidt discovered that their spectral lines were shifted massively to the red. If Hubble’s law were correct, quasars should be impossibly far away, hurtling themselves into oblivion at the far edge of space and time. But for more than a decade, the American astronomer Halton Arp has drawn the attention of the astronomical community to places in the sky where the expected relationship between redshift and distance simply fails. Embarrassingly enough, many quasars seem bound to nearby galaxies. The results are in plain sight: there on the photographic plate is the smudged record of a galaxy, and there next to it is a quasar, the points of light lined up and looking for all the world as if they were equally luminous.
These observations do not comport with standard Big Bang cosmology. If quasars have very large redshifts, they must (according to Hubble’s law) be very far away; if they seem nearby, then either they must be fantastically luminous or their redshift has not been derived from their velocity.... But whatever the excuses, a great many cosmologists recognize that quasars mark a point where the otherwise silky surface of cosmological evidence encounters a snag (1998, pp. 32-33, emp. and parenthetical item in orig.).
That “snag” is what Halton Arp’s work is all about. Compounding the problem related to the quasars is the concept of what might be termed “premature aging.” Cosmologists now place the Big Bang event at 13.7 billion years ago (see Brumfiel, 2003, 422:109; Lemonick, 2003, 161:45), and the beginnings of galaxy formation somewhere between 800,000 to 1,000,000 years after that (Cowen, 2003, 163:139). Hence, radiation coming from an object 13 billion light-years away supposedly began its journey approximately a billion years after the Big Bang, when the object was somewhat less than a billion years old. Such distant objects should show relatively few signs of development, but observations within the last decade have threatened such concepts. For example, the Röentgen Satellite found giant clusters of quasars more than 12 billion light-years away (Cowen, 1991a), and astronomers have detected individual quasars at 12-13 billion light-years away (Cowen, 1991b; 2003).
The problem is that quasars—those very bright, super-energetic star-like objects—are thought to have formed after their hypothetical energy sources and resident galaxies had emerged. Hence, very distant quasars and quasar clusters represent too much organization too early in the history of the Universe. This is indeed problematic. As one scientist put it, the Big Bang theorist suddenly “finds himself in the position of a cement supplier who arrives after the house is already built” (Major, 1991, 11:23).
In the January 31, 1997 issue of Science, Hans-Dieter Radecke wrote that modern cosmology’s dependence on “interpretations of interpretations of observations” makes it essential that “we should not fall victim to cosmological hubris, but stay open for any surprise” (275:603). Good advice, to be sure. And six years after he made that comment, those “surprises” began. The March 1, 2003 issue of Science News reported several “surprises” that “do not comport with standard Big Bang cosmology” (to use Berlinski’s words). First, astronomical research indicates that
a surprising number of galaxies grew up in a hurry, appearing old and massive even when the universe was still very young. If this portrait of precocious galaxies is confirmed by larger studies, astronomers may have to revise the accepted view of galaxy formation.... In mid-December , scientists announced in a press release that they had found a group of distant galaxies that were already senior citizens, chockablock with elderly, red stars a mere 2 billion years after the Big Bang. The same team found another surprise. Some of those galaxies were nearly as large as the largest galaxies in the universe today (Cowen, 2003, 163:139, emp. added).
Talk about “premature aging”!
Second, on January 7, 2003, another team of scientists reported that it had found “the oldest, and therefore most distant, galaxy known. If confirmed, the study indicates that some galaxies were in place and forming stars at a prolific rate when the universe, now 13.7 billions years old, was just an 800-million-year-old whippersnapper” (Cowen, 163:139).
at a galaxy-formation meeting in mid-January  in Aspen, Colorado, [Richard] Ellis [of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena] reported other evidence that the 2-billion-year-old universe was populated with as many galaxies marked by red, senior stars as by blue, more youthful stars.... If accurate, this new view of galactic demography might force astronomers to rethink the fundamentals of galaxy formation (Cowen, 163:140, emp. added).
Talk about “cosmological evidence encountering a snag”! What an understatement. A number of astronomers, of course, have preferred to simply ignore work like Arp’s, which “does not comport” with standard Big Bang cosmology. “Others,” wrote Berlinski, “have scrupled at Arp’s statistics. Still others have claimed that his samples are too small, although they have claimed this for every sample presented and will no doubt continue to claim this when the samples number in the billions” (p. 33). Sadly, because Arp’s views do not come anywhere close to supporting the status quo, he even has been denied telescope time for pursuing this line of research (see Gribbin, 1987, Marshall, 1990). [As William Corliss commented (somewhat sarcastically) in discussing this issue: “Some astronomers, according to news items in scientific publications, have heard enough about discordant redshifts and would rather see scarce telescope time used for other types of work” (1983).] If Dr. Arp is correct, however (and there is compelling evidence to indicate that he is—see next paragraph), then the Universe is not acting in a way that is consistent with the Big Bang Theory.
Support for Arp’s conclusions arrived in the form of research performed by another American—I.E. Segal—a distinguished mathematician who also happens to be one of the creators of modern function theory, and who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He and his coworkers studied the evidence for the recessional velocities of galaxies over the course of a twenty-year period. The experimental results of their research, as it turns out, were quite disturbing to Big Bang theorists, because those results are sharply at odds with predictions made by Big Bang cosmology.
|Our place in the Universe. This composite radio light image (as seen in visible light) illustrates the enigmatic “high-velocity clouds” of gas (depicted by the various colors) above and belowthe plane of the MilkyWay Galaxy (seen in white). Photo courtesy of NASA.
Galaxies, as everyone involved in cosmology readily acknowledges, are critical when it comes to verification (or non-verification, as the case may be) of Hubble’s law, because it is by observing galaxies that the crucial observational evidence for the Big Bang must be uncovered. When Segal examined redshift values within various galaxies during his two-decade-long study,
[t]he linear relationship that Hubble saw, Segal and his collaborators cannot see and have not found. Rather, the relationship between redshift and flux or apparent brightness that they have studied in a large number of complete samples satisfies a quadratic law, the redshift varying as the square of apparent brightness (Berlinski, 1998, pp. 33-34).
Segal concluded: “By normal standards of scientific due process, the results of [Big Bang] cosmology are illusory.” He then went on to claim that Big Bang cosmology
owes its acceptance as a physical principle primarily to the uncritical and premature representation [of the redshift-distance relationship—BT/BH/BM] as an empirical fact.... Observed discrepancies...have been resolved by a pyramid of exculpatory assumptions, which are inherently incapable of noncircular substantiation (as quoted in Berlinski, p. 33).
More than one cosmologist has dismissed Segal’s claims (which, remember, are based on twenty-years’ worth of scientific research) with what Berlinski called “a great snort of indignation.” But, observed Berlinski, “the discrepancy from Big Bang cosmology that they reveal is hardly trivial” (p. 34).
Indeed, the discrepancy is “hardly trivial.” As we noted earlier, the idea that the Universe is expanding is listed as one of the three main support pillars for Big Bang cosmology (see Fox, pp. 56,120). Both the fact of expansion, and the rate of expansion, have as part of their foundation the redshift values of stellar objects (specifically, galaxies)—redshift values that now are being called into question in a most rigorous manner by distinguished astronomers and mathematicians. Surely, it is evident that a serious re-evaluation of these matters is in order. Fox stated the relationship well when she wrote:
Many...people strike at the very heart of the big bang theory: expansion. While, as mentioned earlier, an expanding universe doesn’t require that the universe began with a bang, the big bang theory certainly requires an expanding universe. If it turns out that galaxies and stars aren’t receding from each other, then the entire theory would fall apart (p. 126, emp. added).
Yes, it certainly would. But it gets worse. In his critique of the standard Big Bang Theory in Scientific American, Andrei Linde listed as number four in his list of six “highly suspicious underlying assumptions” (as he called them)—“the expansion problem.”
The fourth problem deals with the timing of the expansion. In its standard form, the big bang theory assumes that all parts of the universe began expanding simultaneously. But how could the different parts of the universe synchronize the beginning of their expansion? Who gave the command? (1994, 271:49, emp. added).
Who indeed? George Lemaître, who originally postulated the idea of the Big Bang, suggested that the Universe started out in a highly contracted state and initially expanded at a rapid rate. The expansion slowed down and ultimately came to a halt, during which time, galaxies formed and gave rise to a new expansion phase that then continued indefinitely. One of the difficulties here is that the Universe is supposed to be all there is. That is to say, it is self-contained. [The late astronomer of Cornell University, Carl Sagan, opened his television extravaganza Cosmos (and his book by the same name) with these words: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” (1980, p. 4). That is about as good a definition of a “self-contained” Universe as you will ever be able to find.]
But, “somehow,” the expansion conveniently started moving again, after the galaxies had time to form in a non-moving, static Universe. According to Newton’s first law of motion, however, an object will continue in whatever state of motion it is in, unless acted upon by an unbalanced external force. In other words, if it were sitting still, it would have to remain like that (meaning—no further expansion!). But in the Big Bang, the Universe just “picks up” and continues to expand after the galaxies finally get formed. Sir Fred Hoyle, addressing this very point, put it succinctly when he referred to the Big Bang model as a
dull-as-ditchwater expansion which degrades itself adiabatically [without loss or gain of heat—BT/BH/BM] until it is incapable of doing anything at all. The notion that galaxies form, to be followed by an active astronomical history, is an illusion. Nothing forms; the thing is dead as a doornail (1981, 92:523).
The idea of a “brief hiatus” of sorts for galaxy formation is one of those ad hoc, quickly improvised hypotheses that had to be added to keep the Big Bang Theory alive. There certainly is no physical basis for it—which was what Dr. Hoyle’s “dull as ditchwater” comment was intended to reflect. A “bang” does not allow for starts and stops. Once a bomb goes off, an observer hardly expects gravitation to cause the shrapnel to come back together and form clumps, no matter how near (or far) the pieces travel from the location of the initial explosion.
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